Out Of The Box Brownies: Magical brownie recipes that start with a box

Strawberry Triple-Cream Brownie

February 09, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Chilled, Cream Cheese, Creative, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free


Three creams underneath a sweet strawberry pie-filling goo on top of a deep chocolatey brownie crust — it all adds up to decadent, sticky Valentine brownie bliss.



  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box directions
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) whipped cream topping, like CoolWhip (thawed, not frozen)
  • 1 tub (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp KoolAid unsweetened lemonade powder (optional)
  • 1 or 2 cans (21 ounces each) strawberry pie filling
  • 1-2 ounces rum or amaretto (optional; I used vanilla rum)




First, you’ll need to plan ahead just a little bit. Think about whether you want a thick and tall brownie or a thinner one.

  • If you want a thick brownie that you can cut into tall, towering servings, I suggest using a 9×9-inch pan (or its equivalent, say, 7×11). In this case, you can use either a regular or family-size brownie mix and 1 can of pie filling.
  • If you prefer thinner brownies that you can serve in big, wide slices, then use a 9×13-inch pan. In this case, you should use a family size box mix — one that says “9×13″ on the box — and plan on using almost 2 cans of pie filling.

Either way, yum. To help you decide, these photos reflect the “thinner” kind made in a 9×13 pan.


To get started, make and bake brownies according to the box instructions. When they are cooled, you can begin making the creamy filling. Using an electric mixer on medium to medium-high setting, mix together the cream cheese, whipped topping, and sour cream until perfectly smooth, about 1-2 minutes.


You can decide if you’d like to add a little lemony ZING to your valentine brownie. (This is optional, but I like the idea of cutting the sweet of the brownie and gooey topping with the zip of lemon and sour cream.) If you like, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of unsweetened KoolAid lemonade powder in about 1 teaspoon of hot tap water, mixing until completely dissolved. Add to your cream mixture and beat it for 30 seconds until it’s blended in.


Pour cream mixture over top of cooled brownies and spread it evenly.


If you’d like to add a tiny little KAPOW to your strawberry topping, do as I did and add 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of rum or amaretto. I used vanilla rum and it was delightful! You can just mix it right into the can if you want to save a dirty dish. If you’re using 2 cans of topping for a 9×13 pan, add 2 tablespoons of alcohol to the second can of topping as well.


Pour strawberry topping over the cream layer. (Below you will see how “one can of topping is not quite enough” to fully cover a 9×13 pan.)


Keep refrigerated. Before serving, let it set up in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I suggest that you serve this immediately after cutting, because the goo and strawberries have a habit of slowly oozing over the brownie edge, which is actually sort of seductive in a valentine-y kind of way.


Red Velvet Brownies – with homemade frosting

April 06, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Chilled, Cream Cheese, Decadent, Holiday, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path


Red Velvet Cake is a favorite in my household, almost as much as brownies. Red Velvet Cake is the dessert my mother always made for special occasions — especially birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, or Christmas. And it’s the dessert that, when served, made any occasion special. It’s rich, dense, sweet, buttery, and very, very pretty! So its namesake brownie had to be equally special. Here’s my simplified, “box mix” approach to this lovely recipe.

Drink it in with your eyeballs, my friends. The Red Velvet Brownie is a visual stunner!


  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk (any percent is fine)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups butter (do *NOT* use margarine, as it will not fluff up properly)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


Put milk and flour into a microwave-safe dish and mix completely. (I like to use a fork, but that’s just me.)

Do this:

  • Microwave for 60 seconds on 20% power; remove from oven and stir.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.

(Use 20% power, not 100%. You want to avoid scalding your milk.)

At this point, you’ll have cooked your mixture for a total of 4 minutes and you’re ALMOST done. Your goal is a smooth, thick consistency, like a gravy you might pour over biscuits. It should take a total of about 6 to 10 minutes of cooking time — but you don’t want to cook it any longer than you have to.

So now, do this, but ONLY until it gets thick:

  • Microwave for 30 seconds on 20% power.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.

Here's a rule of thumb to see if your goo is properly thick. Scoop up some goo with your fork; if it clings to the fork for a second before running through the tines, you're done cooking!

Do not overcook. After about 6 minutes total, you should be done. Stir well until smooth. Cover and set aside, so it can cool completely before step 2 of frosting, later.

Adding plastic wrap on top of your cooked flour/milk mixture will keep it from making a tough skin as it cools.


In a large bowl, add cream cheese and egg. With electric mixer, beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add cake mix, water, and oil. Mix on slow speed until blended, then on medium for 2 minutes.

Oh, pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty. (Sigh.)

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

Keep yer dang fingers outta the batter!

Bake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes or until a center-placed toothpick comes out crumbly but nearly clean.

One of the keys to success is to avoid overbaking. Use a toothpick test for the last few minutes of baking and remove as soon as it's done.


Before this next step, check the temperature of your “cooked flour/milk” mixture. If it is **completely cooled to room temperature**, you may proceed. (Also, if you chose to cool your flour/milk in the refrigerator, let it return to room temperature before moving forward.)

Allow your butter to soften outside of the refrigerator for about 5 or 10 minutes. With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl until it turns snowy white, about 3 minutes. Next, add the flour mixture.

Add your cooked and cooled flour/milk mixture.

Start the mixer slowly. Don’t be afraid that your frosting will look entirely HIDEOUS at this stage. Consider it a baby swan that will soon grow into an elegant, angelic creature.

I've always felt that this "ugly duckling" stage looks a little like half-cooked scrambled eggs. Eww.

Mix on highest speed until you notice a beautiful, magical change in texture–causing it to look and act like real whipped cream–about 2-3 minutes.

Oh. Yes. Fluffy, sparkly, and TOTALLY HOMEMADE! This just might ruin you for tub frosting for the rest of your life. Sorry 'bout that.

Only after your brownies are completely cooled should you add the frosting. Pile it on. Make big fluffy swirls. Remember, this will spread a lot differently than pre-made “tub” frosting. That’s. Cuz. It’s. Homemade.

This recipe will give you the luxury of a big ol’ thick layer. Oh my goo’ness–I’m getting lightheaded as I type this.

With this frosting, you must refrigerate this dessert. A small price to pay for the absolute decadence of it all. Serve your Red Velvet Brownies while wearing red lipstick and a mischievous smile.

Much easier than making a 2-layer cake: It's the Red Velvet Brownie!

Valentine’s Day Cherry Cordial Brownie

February 07, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Cream Cheese, Creative, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free


It’s just like a cherry cordial — one that’s big enough to need a plate. BAM! Cupid just shot a thousand tiny arrows into your taste buds. Deal with that.



  • 1 box brownie mix (Ghirardelli Ultimate Fudge, with the fudge icing packet included)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 or 2 eggs (1 for a shorter, fudgier brownie; 2 for a taller, fluffier brownie)
  • 1/3 cup water


  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 12-ounce jar marshmallow topping (the kind you drizzle over ice cream)
  • 2-3 teaspoons almond extract, to taste
  • 1/3 cup juice from a maraschino cherry jar
  • 15-25 maraschino cherries, depending on pan size


Open box mix and set aside the fudge icing packet, which you’ll use after the baking. Be careful when buying your brownie mix for this recipe. Don’t confuse a “put-the-fudge-packet-INTO-the-batter” mix with a “put-the-fudge-packet-ON-TOP-OF-the-baked-brownie” mix. (The into-the-batter packets are usually not very sweet and won’t work as a frosting.)

Pour powdered brownie mix into a large bowl.

Melt butter or margarine in microwave (about 25-30 seconds) and add it to the brownie mix, along with the eggs and water. Mix thoroughly. Spread 80% of the chocolate batter into a greased pan, setting aside 20% for later.

In a medium bowl, place cream cheese and marshmallow topping. Mix with hand beater on medium speed just until completely mixed.


By hand, mix in the cherries, almond extract, and maraschino juice. It will be the prettiest shade of pink!

Using a tablespoon, scoop up one cherry and a spoonful of the cherry filling. Place this cherry-pink filling down into the chocolate batter. Don’t just put a dollop on top of the batter; try to get it down in there.


Plan ahead on how you will space the cherries into your pan. Each brownie should have one cherry in its center. I used an 11×7 pan and I used 24 cherries in 6 rows of 4 cherries.


Use the remaining 20% of chocolate brownie batter to drizzle over top of the pink batter. This will make for a more attractive crust. (When I first made this recipe, I just let the pink batter stay exposed. Once baked, it was pretty odd-looking until I covered it with the frosting that came in the box mix. So, I recently added this extra step as a decorative pre-emptive strike.) 

Bake until a toothpick placed into the chocolate part comes out nearly clean, about 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Soften the fudge icing packet by placing it under hot tap water for 30 seconds. Knead packet in your hands to mix packet’s contents. Cut away a tiny corner of the packet so it will deliver a thin ribbon of icing.


Drizzle icing over your cooled brownies in a pattern that will be pleasing to you and your valentine. You don’t have to go for a “fully frosted” effect here; feel free to leave some areas exposed.


Mmm, mmm. “Love” just isn’t a big enough concept for this. Serve with two forks.